LEDs are already known for being a super energy efficient way to light up a room, but did you know that they might also be a way for you to connect to the internet? That’s right, a group of scientists from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute have devised a way to encode a visible-frequency wireless signal in light from our plain old desklamps and other light fixtures. Just think – in the near future, jumping on the interwebs might be as simple as flipping on your lightswitch!
While the regular radio-frequency wi-fi most of us use currently is perfectly fine, it does have its flaws. It has a limited bandwidth that confines it to a certain spectrum and if you’ve ever had someone leech off of your connection, you know that it also leaks through walls, which can be helpful if you’re the one stealing internet but not fun when it’s the other way around. Disclaimer: Inhabitat does not advocate internet signal piracy.
Strangely enough, visible-frequency wireless works by flickering the lights in a room so slightly that the human eye can’t see it. Since incandescent and fluorescent bulbs don’t have the ability to flicker fast enough, it’s LED lights to the rescue. While regular commercial LEDs will do the trick, they do have a limited bandwidth. Luckily, researchers were able to expand the bandwidth by leaps and bounds by filtering out all but the blue light (cool!).
In terms of speed, the Fraunhofer team was able to achieve downloaded data at a rate of 230 megabits per second, which is a record for visible wireless using commercial LEDs and is comparable to high-end radio wireless connections. The team thinks they can double that speed in the near future. We’re really excited about this advance in terms of what it can do for how we connect to the internet but also because it gives us even more of an excuse to choose LED lights over incandescents.